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End of 300 years of Raine's Foundation's history as mayor issues closure notice

PUBLISHED: 15:01 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 05 November 2019

Pupils and parents picketted Raine's Foundation School in summer campaign to stop closure. Picture: Mike Brooke

Pupils and parents picketted Raine's Foundation School in summer campaign to stop closure. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The death knell has been sounded for the East End's oldest school after 300 years with the Mayor of Tower Hamlets issuing a statutory notice to shut down Raine's Foundation.

Michelle Bolger campaigning outside Raine's school gate... Michelle Bolger campaigning outside Raine's school gate... "They've ruined my son's life!" Picture: Mike Brooke

Now the clock is running to close the Anglican church school by August next year after John Biggs issued the notice at his cabinet meeting.

But in reality, the authority has already been closing it down for several months.

One mum whose child arrived at the school in September to find no class to attend was near to tears as the formal announcement was made.

"They've ruined my son's life," distraught Michelle Bolger told the East London Advertiser.

"He turned up for the first day of term and found his new Year 10 closed, with no timetable for lessons.

Pupils desperate to save Raine's Foundation started their own petition in the summer. Picture: Mike BrookePupils desperate to save Raine's Foundation started their own petition in the summer. Picture: Mike Brooke

"He was sent to the 'naughty room' and just given paper to draw on. It was a waste of time.

"I came to the cabinet meeting because I still feel strongly about the school."

Six pupils turned up to start Year 10, but found no teacher and no classroom. Year 7 had also been closed, even before any consultation.

Critics accused the authority of a "fast track" closure through the back door, because a final decision on Raine's future wasn't due until February.

But Mayor Biggs issued his Statutory Closure Notice last week "on the proposal to close Raine's" from the August 31 next year. He has invited responses by the beginning of next month, December 2, just four weeks away.

Campaigner Mickey Ambrose... Campaigner Mickey Ambrose... "This was scaremongering when the council said five months before this Closure Notice that the school was to shut." Picture: Mike Brooke

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Mickey Ambrose, who worked at Raine's for two years, has championed the parents' campaign to stop the closure.

He claimed: "The council said five months before this Closure Notice that the school was to shut. This was scaremongering.

"Now there is no Year 7, Year 10 or Year 12, and less than 200 pupils left, despite the council being reprimanded by the Schools Adjudicator.

"There are 511 children being switched from a church school to non-faith secondary education."

The Schools Adjudicator last month rejected the council's application to stop all new admissions. Adjudicator Lorraine Chapman's letter warned the authority: "I do not approve the proposed admissions variation. I determine that admissions will remain at 150 for Year 7."

'Fast track' bid to shut Raine's Foundation as mayor issues closure notice. Picture: Mike Brooke'Fast track' bid to shut Raine's Foundation as mayor issues closure notice. Picture: Mike Brooke

Already 36 primary school pupils have applied so far to join Raine's Year 7 intake next September.

The council had told the High Court two months ago that it had no plans to close Year 7, yet five months earlier had already withdrawn all offers of places for September 2019 to a "zero" intake.

Raine's was founded in 1719 in Wapping by philanthropist Henry Raine, a devout Christian who used his merchant wealth for free education for children of the poor.

The school has moved several times in its history, before the Upper School finally moved to the former Parmiter's Grammar in Approach Road and the Lower School to Old Bethnal Green Road in 1985.

The Approach Road campus was expanded in 2010 in the government's 'Building Schools for the Future' programme. A decade later, its future is being systematically erased by the authority which announced the closure before any public consultation in the very week Raine's Foundation celebrated its 300th anniversary at a ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral in March.

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